Will a greener America create 5 million jobs?

Posted on April 1, 2009. Filed under: Economic development |

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

Just about every plan to help revive the American economy includes talk of green jobs.

President Barack Obama has used the phrase frequently in the past months, vowing to create 5 million “green collar jobs” during his first term in office.

The goal would be accomplished by ensuring that 10 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012; weatherizing one million homes annually; developing clean coal technology and prioritizing construction of the Alaska natural gas pipeline.

“We will create millions of jobs by making the single-largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” Obama said in unveiling the $780 billion stimulus package earlier this year.

Closer to home, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has claimed “the development of green jobs will be one of the biggest changes in our economy since the industrial revolution.”

And Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle recently used the term “green jobs” in announcing $197 million in state weatherization and energy funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But with companies doing more firing than hiring — Wisconsin had the fourth largest number of mass layoffs nationwide last month — creating five million new jobs in any field could prove a challenge.

In fact, a new study out of the University of Illinois warns that the economic and employment benefits of the environmental stimulus package are potentially overblown.

“When the claim of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of green jobs are used as the basis for billions in new government spending, we ought to insist those claims be backed by transparent documentation and sound methodology,” writes Andrew Morriss, a professor of law and business at the University of Illinois’ Institute for Government and Public Affairs.


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